Eight months after restrictions limited its availability, shoppers in New Plymouth central business district are being pestered by teenagers for spare change to buy synthetic cannabis.
The locations of this "hustling" are allegedly close to retailers Trick or Treat and Stardust Creations, which are licensed to sell synthetic cannabis and other psychoactive substances.
"We just keep hustling until we get enough money and Stardust or Trick or Treat are about to close. Then we rush in and get a bag for $10 or $20," said a 15-year-old synthetic cannabis user the Taranaki Daily News agreed to identify only as Amelia.
"Or we might all meet up around Centre City.
"We just look for someone who is 18, usually one of our mates is around, to buy it."
In July, after years of no regulation, the sale of synthetic cannabis and other "legal" highs were restricted under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.
Until then the products could be sold by virtually any retailer and it is estimated there were 3000 to 4000 sellers across the country. On July 17 that dropped to 170.
There are currently five licensed sellers in New Plymouth, four of which are active.
Amelia said the changes had done little to hinder her access to synthetic cannabis and she smoked it every day with about 10 other teenagers.
Though legal, synthetic cannabis and other psychoactive substances, have been linked to seizures, headaches, tremors, vomiting and psychosis.
From October 2012 to January 31 this year 102 people were referred to the Taranaki District Health Board's drug and alcohol service for their use of synthetic cannabis.
New Plymouth Police Sergeant Terry Johnson said police were aware of groups of young people begging to get money to buy synthetic cannabis, then gathering in "hidey-holes" to smoke it. He said he didn't know what could be done to stop people using the substances, which he believed were causing significant harm to the community.
"Fact one, this stuff is no good. Fact two, it is frighteningly addictive. Fact three, it makes people do things they wouldn't usually do," he said.
The New Plymouth District Council's Policy Committee will next week consider a draft policy that could regulate where psychoactive substances can be sold.
The policy, which will be put out for public consultation once it has been considered by the full council later this month, proposes instituting "buffer zones" around schools, kindergartens, recreational facilities, open spaces and other premises selling psychoactive substances where the products cannot be sold.
- Taranaki Daily News
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